Since the beginning of no-holds-barred fighting, the rules have been evolving. Early on, strikes like head butts and head stomps were allowed and were quickly discovered to be too dangerous to use in a sport fighting environment. If you want to know what works to incapacitate an opponent, look no further than the list of fouls for the Unified Mixed Martial Arts rules. The list includes fouls more specific to the sport environment such as unsportsmanlike conduct or disregarding the instructions of the referee, but here are the ones that relate closest to close quarters combat or self defense, with notes on usage included. If you actually like and enjoy your training partners, please restrict yourself to using visualization to practice these techniques.
Butting with the head: An excellent close quarter weapon, but has risks. The main concern is that you ought to strike with a part of your head that has the most bony protection, the top and front of the head above the eyebrows. Your target ought to be one without bony protection, such as your opponent’s face. There are some good guides on how to use head butts effectively, Krav Maga has a good section in “The Complete Krav Maga” from KM Worldwide.
Eye gouging of any kind: I call this one the great equalizer. A baby could poke you in the eye and you’ll be rendered defenseless by any ensuing attacks. For a defense to this scenario, look for a future article named “When Babies Attack”.
Biting: In desperate situations, not a bad option but comes with risks of grossness, like disease. It’s definitely something to watch out for from a desperate, unstable or drugged assailant.
Hair pulling: An excellent way to control an opponent. Where the head goes, the body will follow. Also a good reason to keep your own hair short, or under wraps if you think you might get into a scrap.
Fish hooking, putting a finger into any orifice or into any cut or laceration on an opponent: In desperate situations, again this might not be a bad option but comes with risks of disease or if it’s their mouth, getting your own fingers bitten.
Groin attacks of any kind: Yes.
Small joint manipulation: This is great skill to have in when dealing with weapons, or grabbing assaults, or as a means to control or incapacitate a larger, stronger opponent.
Striking to the spine or the back of the head: Hammerstrikes and elbows to these areas are extremely effective. They are particularly useful when an opponent is leaning down for some reason (maybe you just kicked him in the groin), shoots in to grab your legs, and they work even when on your back. The elbow already focuses a tremendous amount of penetrating force, and here it gets delivered to the body’s central nervous system.
Striking downward using the point of the elbow: Same as above, except it is called out here as particularly dangerous in sport fighting. This is adding a lot of gravity and momentum to an already devastating blow.
Throat strikes of any kind, including, without limitation, grabbing the trachea: It’s simply an area of the body, like the eye, where a very small amount of force can do a lot of damage.
Clawing, pinching or twisting the flesh: Useful in grabbing or bear hug type attacks when your arms might have gotten pinned to your sides. Combine this technique with the groin target to double the effect!
Grabbing the clavicle: I don’t know how useful this is in a street fight, it just sounds uncomfortable. If you could do this, I’m assuming you could probably get to the eyes, the throat or some other more useful target. In mma, it could get easily broken if the grab occurs during a takedown or other exchange. However, using a hammer strike to the clavicle is pretty useful, it can be broken without a lot of strength and that limb will be out of the fight. It can also be a good option if the assailant is too tall for you to reach their face.
Kicking the head of a grounded opponent, kneeing the head of a grounded opponent, stomping a grounded opponent: These 3 are basically all in the same category. All these strikes can kill someone or cause them serious brain damage, so there are some legal and ethical issues here to consider. If you are a civilian, and your assailant goes down somehow, you have a choice to make. Are they incapacitated enough for you to escape safely? If not, you may have to continue your counter attack in order to ensure that they will not pursue you. Depending on other factors such as whether weapons are involved, or the relative size of the people involved, there may be legal repercussions for going from defensive mode to offensive mode, and using a potentially lethal technique.
Kicking to the kidney with the heel: This is a strike that has been used in vale tudo and some other no-holds barred systems. When a fighter was on his or her back, they would use this strike to the back of the fighter on top. In a close quarter combat situation, you’re better off dong things to get off your back than trying to damage your opponent’s kidney.
Spiking an opponent to the canvas on his head or neck: If you have the strength and the skill to do this, I salute you, but this is another technique that has better options. To pull off this maneuver, usually you have to be in back of your opponent with your arms locked around them in a couple different ways, around the waist, the legs or sometimes laced through the groin. If you get to a position to use this technique in a survival situation, there are many easier and more effective things to do, such as striking to the back of the head with the elbow, stomping on the knees, or maybe applying a choke.
The world of mma has been a great laboratory to see what types of actions are really effective, but over time as the sport matured the most dangerous techniques have been weeded out. There’s no fouls in combat or a street fight. Each of us has to think situations through and when the moment arrives, be prepared to do whatever it takes to survive.